Research has revealed that, despite decades of progress towards closing the equality gap between men and women, close to 90 percent of men and women hold some sort of bias against women.
Findings of the Gender Social Norms Index, recently released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), confirm that "no country in the world, rich or poor, has achieved gender equality”.
The research also confirms that women still face strong conventional societal expectations to be caregivers and homemakers, thus limiting their ability to reach their full potential.
It is for these and other reasons that it is cause for optimism when South Africa’s news media industry is ranked top of the pack in the number of top women editors that it employs.
According to new research by the Reuters Institute in collaboration with the University of Oxford, in South Africa, 47% of top editors for news platforms are women. This is the highest percentage of women editors reported among nine other markets assessed in the research. This is how the other markets compare: Japan 0%, Mexico 6%, South Korea 11%, Hong Kong 13%, Brazil 22%, Germany 27%, the UK 29%, Finland 33%, and the USA 41%.
It was particularly pertinent for researchers to determine gender dynamics in news production leadership as personal experiences of editors will, in part, sometimes influence content creation.
The research is not an indication that top editors are the only decision-makers in newsrooms, but rather that as representatives of the organisations they belong to, their ideologies will inadvertently affect the news of the day and public opinion.
In South Africa’s case, the influence of women in news-making is profound, with just over 60% of journalists in the country being women.
In addition to this, the highest number of news consumers who read news from an outlet with a woman as the top editor is at a high of 77% in South Africa, again topping all the other markets in the study.
The research, however, found “no meaningful correlation between overall gender equality in society and the percentage of women among top editors, underlining that there are special dynamics at play in journalism and the news media.”
The progress made in SA's news media is perhaps the proverbial 'small step' for the industry, but a 'giant leap' towards achieving an ethical and fair workplace culture across all sectors.
For now, gender disparities still exist in the workplace.
For instance, globally close to 50 percent of men believe that men should have more right to a job than women, and despite decades of progress in advancing women's rights, bias against women is increasing in some countries.
Also, women in the workplace remain far behind men with a reported 28% pay gap. South Africa is among the countries with the highest levels of wage inequality among the 64 countries considered in the Global Wage Report 2018/19 by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
"The work that has been so effective in ensuring an end to gaps in health or education must now evolve to address something far more challenging: a deeply ingrained bias — among both men and women — against genuine equality. Current policies, while well-intentioned, can only take us so far," says Achim Steiner, Administrator of UNDP.
In a previous article, W24 reported on the barriers that make women less likely to secure employment than men with the same competencies.
These barriers that include limited access to education and motherhood exist even though once women have found jobs, they perform at the same level as men.
It is not only in entry-level jobs that women are faced with barriers to entry. The picture is grimmer in top positions. Hence, it is encouraging that this barrier seems to have been somewhat successfully challenged in newsrooms.
To curb existing gender imbalances, Anelisa Keke, Senior Manager of PwC's People and Organisation division believes corporate South Africa needs to focus more on ensuring that the number of women at executive and managerial level is increased.
"To bring about real change, companies should not view gender parity and diversity concerns as a means of appeasing individuals or organisations, but rather as an essential component in their long-term success," says Anelisa.
Fortunately, South African women are not only looking at the job market for economic emancipation. Another study, commissioned in five countries, including South Africa, shows that women are daring when it comes to entrepreneurship, despite imposter syndrome, fear of failure, and numerous other challenges.
How has gender discrimination in the workplace affected you? Share your story with us here.